Remodeling trends from CotY Awards revealed

Material reuse, subway tile, and pocket doors—standouts from this year.

Des Plaines, Illinois, August 8, 2012—The National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s (NARI) Contractor of the Year (CotY) awards program not only identifies the top remodelers in a variety of project categories but also reveals remodeling trends seen nationwide.

These trends show up frequently in projects. NARI remodelers share why.

Reclaim, reuse and refurbish

Several CotY-winning projects mentioned reusing items in the home and/or installing reclaimed items. Christopher Risher, CR, of RisherMartin Renovations based in Austin, Texas, is no stranger to this trend, with 90 percent of his clients requesting reuse to some degree in remodeling projects.

“I think people try to save as much as possible; they don’t want to replace everything,” Risher says.

In the Austin market, homeowners often make environmentally-conscious decisions, plus the housing stock is older and many people are interested in preserving the historical charm of their homes.

Risher’s 2012 South Central Regional CotY award-winning project in the Residential Addition $100,000 to $250,000 category featured reclaimed long-leaf pine flooring, which matched the addition to the original home’s flooring throughout.

“We found the flooring through a salvage company in Dallas, and it took quite a bit of work to make it match the original,” Risher says. This included separating the damaged pieces, using twice as much wood filler to seal imperfections, sanding and staining.

Despite the extra effort, Risher says there is benefit. “It’s environmentally beneficial, and it lasts longer than new pine flooring because reclaimed pine comes from old-growth trees that were more dense.”

Other CotY-winning projects featured different ways of reuse such as cabinetry, reclaiming barn doors and repurposing a dresser into a bathroom vanity.

John Albrecht, president of Albrecht Wood Interiors Inc., based in Centerville, Ohio, has had a similar experience with clients’ wanting their project to have that antique-look. As a custom cabinet-maker and woodworking expert, Albrecht has noticed a trend toward the distressed wood interiors and away from the sleek, contemporary look.

“Old is new,” Albrecht says. “Clients are consistently asking me to repurpose an old piece of wood into something else or build something new and distress it to look old.”

The process of distressing new wood to look old basically means banging it up and creating dents to resemble imperfections. This can be done with a variety of tools, including hammers, chains or rocks. Stains and varnishes can be used to give the wood color depth, especially enhancing the dents.

One of Albrecht’s clients scours flea markets, looking for just the right pieces for her home. Barn beams run across ceilings or are transformed into furniture, tree trunks become the base of desks and rail carts are made into coffee tables.

As a custom cabinetry-maker for the last 30 years, Albrecht finds the trend interesting and challenging. “It’s definitely harder to making something look old—it could take me a day-and-a-half to tear something apart.”

Other design trends from the 2012 CotY Award Program:

  • Pocket doors: Albrecht says these are often used by designers in areas where space is too restricted to use a swinging door. But he warns clients to include them in areas with limited use. “They’re not built as well as they used to be, and a standard 2x4 wall-width doesn’t allow for a wide enough gap,” he says. He adds that once they fall off their track, it’s hard to fix without tearing open part of the wall and casing.
  • Sunrooms: Many projects this year included sunrooms, which is a great way to increase living space inside and outside. New technologies allow for use of sunrooms all year.  
  • Subway tile: Fifty percent of Risher’s clients are putting subway tile into projects. “Clients like the look of it,” he says. Also, subway tile is known for its durability and modern aesthetic. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors to match any kitchen or bath.
  • Spray foam insulation: Remodelers know that as long as walls are being torn apart, it’s a good idea to add extra insulation to increase efficiency. CotY winners this year used a lot of spray foam to insulate projects—keeping warm and cool air in and reducing energy costs in the long-run.


NARI is the source for homeowners seeking to hire a professional remodeling contractor because members are full-time, dedicated remodelers who follow a strict code of ethics that observes high standards of honesty, integrity and responsibility.

Visit the site to get tips on how to hire a remodeling professional and to search for NARI members in your area.

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About NARI: The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is the only trade association dedicated solely to the remodeling industry.  The Association, which represents 7,000 member companies nationwide—comprised of 63,000 remodeling contractors— is “The Voice of the Remodeling Industry.”™ To learn more about membership, visit or contact national headquarters, based in Des Plaines, Ill., at (847) 298-9200.


Morgan Zenner

Marketing & Communications Coordinator

National Association of the Remodeling Industry

PO Box 4250

Des Plaines, IL 60016

P: 847-298-9200

E: Email Contact


Complete a project you’re proud of? Enter it in the 2013 CotY Awards, now with Green and Universal Design Recognition Programs.


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